The beach culture is alive and well in Oceanside with surf shops, casual restaurants, museums, and a boardwalk that leads to the pier and harbor where surfers line up to catch the next wave. Numerous hotels are within walking distance of the city’s best swimming and surfing beaches: Harbor Beach, brimming with beach activities and fun, and Buccaneer Beach, home to some of the best surfing in North County. Camp Pendleton, the sprawling U.S. Marine base, lies at the north end of the city. If you'd like to see the base, visitors must be sponsored and vetted, with forms filled out four days in advance.

Oceanside is also home to Mission San Luis Rey, the largest and one of the best-preserved California missions. The town’s history extends back to the 1700s, when the Spanish friars walked along the California coast founding missions as they went. Today it celebrates its historic culture with the regionally exciting Oceanside Museum of Art, which displays the works of San Diego area artists. Residents and visitors gather weekly at the farmers’ market and Sunset Market on Main Street, where shopping for fresh-picked produce is a pleasant pastime.

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Fodor’s Southern California: with Los Angeles, San Diego, the Central Coast & the Best Road Trips

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